Insomniac reflection – I’m not that big a deal

Isn’t it annoying when you get into bed, and instead of sleeping you get all kinds of thoughts rattling through your brain? For instance, last night I thought about how insignificant we are as individuals in the grand scheme of things, and how important we think we are by contrast.

This is not an exercise in humility, but rather in realism. If I heard a story about some guy who lived 300 years ago, who did this and that, how would I react? Would it matter to me? I would first be amazed that I can know what some person did 300 years ago, and then I may wonder if that actually happened, or if someone made it up to prove some point. Both are possible, and the outcome is actually exactly the same, it occurred to me.

What will people remember about me after 300 years, if any will even know I existed? Will I be judged according to whatever view of morality humanity would be operating with in 300 years? (Remember that slavery was only abolished less than 150 years ago, so a lot can change in humanity in 300 years.) Would anyone know I even existed? And if they did, so what?

I may think that what I do or say, or rather what I fail to do or say has some kind of cosmic implications, and that may fill me with a sense of self-importance. But last night I felt a sense of relief at the possibility that in 300 years nobody will even know I existed. That’s comforting. I’m not that big a deal. That made me smile.

Sermon – ‘You do not know that day’

Matthew 24:36-44

Sermon preached in Bishopton Parish Church, on 28th November 2010, the First Sunday of Advent.

Bishopton Church of Scotland in the snow on Advent Sunday

Bishopton Kirk in the snow

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and as Advent comes every year, we know with a great degree of certainty that Christmas is also coming in less than five weeks this year. We know that Christmas day is coming. We look at the calendar and know the exact date. And we are ready for it. If we haven’t bought the gifts yet, I’m sure most of us have at least made the lists and sent them by email to Santa Claus…

And in a stark contrast with us knowing exactly the date when Jesus is coming to us this Christmas, the passage we read from the Gospel according to Matthew tells us that “no one knows when that day and hour will come.” This is a most intriguing tension, especially since this idea of uncertainty is repeated five times in different forms in this short passage. I know you will immediately correct me and tell me that Matthew is not writing here about the birth of Jesus, but rather about the ‘second coming of Jesus’, but then I would be forced to tell you that this expression does not appear in the Bible.

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Sermon – The end is near?

Luke 21:5-19

Sermon preached in Bishopton Parish Church, on 14th November 2010, the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost – Remembrance Sunday.

As I was reading the gospel passage for today I have to admit I immediately thought of Frank Sinatra’s song… “And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain. My friends, I’ll say it clear, I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full, I travelled each and every highway, and more, much more than this, I did it my way.” I’m told this is a favourite for funerals, which winds ministers up to no end. I have to say, even if I do like Frank Sinatra’s music, which of course says nothing about my age, and even if I do admire his assertion that he lived ‘a life that’s full’, I still think nobody does it entirely their way. Maybe for this reason, Sinatra himself didn’t really like the song.

There are always things beyond our control, things that happen to us without us having much choice in the matter. For many of us, this is highly problematic. Certainly, I would like to think that I’m in control of my own destiny and that my life now is a result of my choices; and the choices that I make now will determine my future. Otherwise, how can I assume responsibility for what happens to me?

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